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‘Nobody just disappears’: Hanover missing person case turns deadly after remains found in Southampton


HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The search for a missing Mechanicsville woman has come to a close, with a homicide case now opened, after her remains were found approximately an hour and a half from where she disappeared.

According a release, Karen Louise Ryan, 65, was reported missing by family members on May 28, after they said they last spoke with her over the phone on May 26.

“We immediately entered her into the statewide and national database as missing,” Lieutenant James Cooper with the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office told 8News. “They basically told us that they hadn’t seen or heard from her for the past couple days, and it was very out-of-the-norm.”

65-year-old Karen Louise Ryan photo provided by Hanover County Sheriff’s Office

Loved ones told authorities that Ryan had last been seen at her home on Rural Point Road on May 25. That’s where Cooper said sheriff’s deputies first went to conduct a welfare check.

“When we got on scene at her residence, we noticed that her vehicle was still in the driveway, which we found a little odd,” he said. “We contacted her family, which let us into her house, and we searched her home thoroughly and we searched her property thoroughly, with negative results.”

Authorities said that Ryan lived alone. With no trace of her at her home, they expanded their search.

“We conducted multiple neighborhood canvasses over the course of the next several days, even weeks, to speak with neighbors to see if they had seen or heard anything, again with negative results,” Cooper said. “We just continued widening our search, eventually to the point where we were searching the area of Rural Point Road, the woods. We had deputies walking through the woods. We deployed our police K-9s.”

Lt. Cooper said the sheriff’s office conducted more than just physical searches of certain areas in the county.

“Our investigators began to execute multiple search warrants on her financial accounts to see if there were any transactions being made, and we noticed that there were absolutely zero transactions being made,” he said. “We found that odd.”

Ultimately, Lt. Cooper said that it wasn’t until the end of June that Ryan was located, but with tragic results.

“They located skeletal […] remains in Southampton, contacted their sheriff’s office,” he said. “They saw that we had a very recent missing person out of Hanover County, so they contacted us, and we knew it was a possibility that it could be her. But, obviously, we didn’t know that for sure until the Medical Examiner positively identified her recently.”

Image of grassy area showing the general area where Karen Louise Ryan’s remains were located. Photo credit: Southampton County Sheriff’s Office.

On Wednesday, the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and the Southampton County Sheriff’s Office announced that the case was no longer that of a missing person, but instead a homicide. That determination was made based on the results of the Medical Examiner’s report.

Major Camden Cobb with the Southampton County Sheriff’s Office told 8News that Ryan’s remains were located by the owner of the property where they were found. Lt. Cooper clarified that it was in a rural area of Drewryville, at least 70 miles from where Ryan lived.

8News also asked Cobb if authorities had identified any potential suspects, but was told that the sheriff’s office does not release such information unless arrest warrants have been obtained.

Map depicting geography of Mechanicsville, where Karen Louise Ryan lived, in relation to Drewryville where Ryan’s remains were found. Courtesy of Channel 8News staff.

Those who said they previously worked with Ryan told 8News that she helped many people through her work on the Hannover County Community Services Board, changing the lives of those who faced challenges daily, and that they hope the individual or individuals responsible for her death will be caught. Ryan’s obituary noted that she had two daughters, and was an animal lover.

“Whenever we get any type of missing person report, we’re going to take all of them very seriously because we look at us being contacted as kind of a last resort sometimes,” Lt. Cooper said. “We feel like family’s going to do whatever they can do first to find them, and if they can’t find them, they contact us. So they’re concerned. Obviously, we’re going to be concerned, and we’re going to do everything that we can to located their loved one.”

The homicide investigation is now being led by the Southampton County Sheriff’s Office, with the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office assisting. Anyone with information about this case is urged to contact Detective B. Grizzard at 757-653-2100.



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